Are you ready for some football? Those Friday night lights have finally arrived – and after a long, hot summer, they are exactly what
we’ve all been waiting for. But even if you’re not a football fan, rooting for the hometown team is a must.
For close to 50 years, the Wando Warriors football program was the only team in town. Now, with the Bengals of Lucy Beckham High, football fever will continue to rise. But this is not the first time Mount Pleasant has had two public high school football teams.
The Moultrie Generals and the Laing Wolverines were the answer to residents’ zest for Friday night action for nearly three decades before Wando was established. And Moultrie’s 1950 season is one for the record books. The
Generals went 12-0 that year and took home the state championship. It was the first time — and, to this day, the only time — a Mount Pleasant football team has won the South Carolina High School League state title.
The start of that season foreshadowed even greater things to come for the Generals when they defeated the reigning two-year state champs, the Summerville Green Wave, in a regular season game. From there, the
momentum escalated, sparking such a fervor that the home game against the St. Andrew’s Rocks of West Ashley had to be held at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium to seat the crowd of 10,000, since Jasper Green couldn’t handle that many fans. The Generals’ final game of the season, a win over the Stags from Moncks Corner, clinched it and the team was off to Orangeburg to play the North Augusta Yellow Jackets in the state championship. That match-up proved to be a real nailbiter.
On a bitter cold night with torrential rain, neither the Generals nor the Yellow Jackets were successful in recording any points on the scoreboard. When Moultrie’s star running back, Cranny Boensch, had to
leave the field due to an injury, defensive back Robert Royall was put in as a substitute and returned a punt 61 yards to win the game 6-0 and claim the championship trophy. That treasured icon of one of the crowning achievements in Mount Pleasant’s high school history nearly came to a tragic end when the Generals’ championship trophy was found in a trash dumpster at Wando High School in the 1980s. Fortunately, fate intervened when Jimmy Craven, who played for the Generals in the 1960s, rescued it from there.
Line of Scrimmage: Football During Segregation
Just around the corner from Jasper Green — yet a world away — was Laing Industrial School, where a varsity football program was established for the African American school’s students in 1948. When the school was split into an elementary and high school, a new building was constructed at 6-Mile for the school’s upper grades in 1953. A lighted football field was included along with facilities for the students’ other athletic pursuits.
Laing High School kicked off its first season with a win over Berkeley Training High School 13-6 and the Wolverines were off and running, showing what they could do with their capable quarterbacks, Donald Bryce and Robert Singleton, and running backs Henry Richardson, Jesse Ellis and James Linyard. The school’s newspaper, The Spectator, praised other standouts on the Wolverines’ defensive line including sophomore Henry Richardson and senior tackle Willie Thompson.
The Wolverines’ regular season opponents were other black high school teams including those at Avery Institute, Burke High School and the Catholic Immaculate Conception School, all from downtown Charleston, as well as North Charleston’s Bonds-Wilson and teams from Beaufort, Holly Hill and Lincoln High School. The game against the league’s powerhouse, Howard in Georgetown, was always the most anticipated match-up. Former Wolverine team member Tim Ascue remembered how their opponents would try and intimidate them: “Howard would show up with a hearse that they’d park on the sidelines to scare us!”
When Laing and Moultrie were merged in 1973, the two schools’ football programs were mostly forgotten in an effort to unite behind one home team, the Wando Warriors. But the memories of the Wolverines and the Generals are still held dear by many. The Laing High School Alumni Association is anxious to retrieve and conserve memorabilia from the Wolverines’ glory days. And Moultrie graduates hope that their alma mater’s championship trophy can be displayed in Mount Pleasant Town Hall to reflect the history of a growing community that is still filled with a small town spirit.
By Mary Coy